Category Archives: Truth and Trivia

Fun With Crypto

It seems obvious that cryptocurrency bears a strong resemblance to a Ponzi scheme. The defining characteristic of a Ponzi scheme is the requirement for new money to fund withdrawals, and of course all crypto that is not backed by cash – some of the “stablecoins” are – meets this criterion. The big difference is that this is no secret, unlike a true Ponzi scheme there is no fraud, no Bernie, at least in the underlying concept, which is fully disclosed.

There is, however, massive fraud by people taking advantage of the largely unregulated nature of crypto.

Bitcoin Energy

I saw this piece about a planned Bitcoin “factory” in Texas.

Still, 800 locals have signed a petition against plans to built America’s largest bitcoin-mining facility — a facility which will consume 1.4 million gallons of water a day and 1 gigawatt of electricity (enough to power 200,000 homes).

This is just pure waste to support a giant Ponzi scheme. Isn’t it time to call a halt to all these frauds?

SCOTUS Takes Elections Case

The Supreme Court on June 30 agreed to hear a case that challenges the ability of the North Carolina State Supreme Court to reject the electoral maps approved by the state legislature and impose its own map. The Constitution says:

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;

This seems clear to me, but the Supreme Court has generally ignored this provision in the past. Since numerous redistricting maps are currently being challenged in state courts, this is obviously an important case. It does not include Presidential elections, to which the Electoral College system applies. But it does mean that Federal laws will not affect Congressional elections, and state legislatures are free to re-district as they wish, subject of course to other provisions of the Constitution.

This will likely further entrench the red state/blue state divide. But I’m no student of the electoral map, so I look forward to seeing some objective analysis of the likely effects in the weeks to come.

CO2 Is Not Pollution

Today’s Supreme Court decision limiting the EPA’s regulatory authority over carbon emissions is being headlined as allowing “carbon pollution”.

Let’s be clear. We are carbon-based life, as is every other species on this planet. We breathe in oxygen and exhale CO2, which is essential for the plant life which exhales the oxygen we need. Carbon is not pollution, it is life itself.

CO2 is constantly withdrawn from the atmosphere by the oceans, where many species of sea creatures use it to make calcium carbonate shells and other structures. Those “white cliffs of Dover” are gigatons of naturally sequestered carbon. Before recent human-caused increases in CO2 emissions, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere was becoming dangerously low, close to levels where plant life would no longer be able to function. Paradoxically, that “pollution” has already “saved the planet.”

The fossil record shows that CO2 levels have been much higher in the past, and are not correlated with global temperatures. We are still in a 2 million year old ice age, in an interglacial period which has lasted some 14,000 years. We will know that the ice age is over when there is no ice at the poles. At that point, temperatures at the equator will make life there difficult, but the plant and animal ecosystem overall will be thriving. Yes, there have been palm trees at the south pole. And doubtless will be again. Get used to it, you don’t have a vote. Be grateful that rising CO2 levels will mean bumper crops.

Having said that, it is important that we preserve the fossil resources as much as possible for future generations. Stripping the planet of the last gram of oil and coal is a really bad idea. But so is trying to stop using fossil fuels without having a plan for, to say nothing of actually putting in place the replacement infrastructure,

Captain Of The Ship

The “progressive” District Attorney for San Francisco, Chesa Boudin, was recalled by a majority of voters. This morning I read a vigorous defense of his actions written by a prosecutor. The defense was that Boudin was constrained by state law and his humane treatment of criminals reduced recidivism, and therefore cost to the taxpayer.

All of which completely misses the point, which is that, while Boudin has been in office, crime has increased and the quality of life in San Francisco has degraded as a result. Boudin was in charge and failed to understand the job the voters wanted done, which was not to save money or make sure the criminals got the proper treatment of their addiction or mental health problems. The voters wanted a reasonably crime-free city, where businesses, tourists and residents felt safe. They didn’t get it. If the ship sinks, the captain is held responsible. Boudin was the captain. End of story.

Other “progressive” politicians might bear this in mind, remembering that San Francisco voters are probably the most supportive in the country, but even they have limits of tolerance.

Fact Checking

What is a fact?

A fact is a verifiable statement about past reality. Facts are independent of belief and opinion. No statement about the future can be a fact, nor can any forecast, inference or conclusion drawn from a fact. A statement offered as fact may not qualify as a fact, because it is not a statement about reality, that is, an observation or observable event that has occurred.

A statement offered as a fact may be false, whether intentionally or inadvertently. Just ask any criminal trial lawyer about eyewitness testimony. The truth or falsity of a fact is, however, a matter of opinion, although that opinion may be buttressed by evidence.

“Fact Checking” and “Misinformation” are recent phenomena in social and legacy media where these labels are used to dispute and censor opinions, not facts. While it is perfectly acceptable to dispute opinions, when this moves to censorship it is truth that is threatened.

To serve and protect?

What happened to the grant money that was supposed to fund full body armor for all members of the Uvalde force? The tragic school shooting in Uvalde shared the common feature of others, such as the Columbine and Parkland horrors – police failing to do their job. The left wants gun control because they are afraid of the citizenry, but it won’t stop shootings because the guns are out there. That train has left the station. There is no 100% solution, but an immediate and forceful response from the police could have avoided many deaths. However, the police’s priority is avoiding any danger of harm to themselves, no matter what the cost to the public. Police shoot people that they merely think might threaten them and stand back when bullets are flying. This is inexcusable. But nothing is ever done. So long as there are no consequences for avoidable shooting or cowering from active shooters, these scenes will continue. Like most government promises, the commitment of the police to protect the public tends to disappear when it is put to the test.

The Digital Economy

Zuckerberg said that Meta (Facebook) will make significant losses in coming years as it invests heavily to build “the digital economy”. He implied that the excess expense would include subsidizing the virtual reality headgear needed to experience Meta’s virtual world(s).

We have something of a digital economy today. Crypto tokens, NFTs that include digital avatars and clothing for them, digital real estate and even digital yachts presumably navigating digital seas. Most of what you need in a digital world. Fortunately mundane things like food and water or fuel are not required, just a lot of imagination.

Will it make the kind of huge business needed to pay out those billions to be invested? I don’t know, I like my life real. Even it is dangerous and challenging. Zuck’s vision seems to me to be a sad imitation of reality.

 

Ukrainian Pork

Congress approved Biden’s request for $33 billion funding for the war in the Ukraine and increased it to  $40 billion. This for a country whose annual military budget was about $3 billion. US spending on the Ukraine war will now approximate Russia’s entire annual military budget.

Not only risking a thermonuclear exchange, Congress is now delivering unprecedented pork to the already overfed defense industry. Where is the part that Congress looks after the citizens? We can find unlimited money for weapons, but mothers around the country can’t get baby formula. What a bunch of a$$holes.

Energy Fantasies

As of 2020, U.S. primary energy consumption amounted to 22.9 Pwh (Petawatt-hours), 84% of which, or 19.2 Pwh is sourced from combustion of fuels. 94% of these fuels come from fossil sources (coal, oil, natural gas) and 6% from renewables (wood and other biomass). The remaining 16% of primary energy consumption is sourced by conversion of other forms of energy into usable electricity – thermal from nuclear fission and geothermal, mechanical from wind and water, electromagnetic in the case of solar. As of 2020 solar’s contribution is about 0.3 Pwh or 1.3% of total.

The electric power industry converts about 8.5 Pwh of combustion energy to electricity for distribution, the remainder is consumed by end users.

So de-carbonizing with solar power would require a new storage and distribution network capable of handling 20.4 Pwh of energy – 2.4 times the current capability. I say new because solar generation would necessarily be widely distributed, but almost exclusively over the southern portions of the US.

And of course capable of generating that much energy, or probably much more, depending on storage efficiency and capacity. By 2035? In 13 years? Planning, financing, acquiring land, permitting and environmental reviews probably couldn’t be completed by then, let alone construction. For example (because my father was involved) it took 14 years from conception to begin construction on the Grand Coulee Dam.

And then there’s the truly massive part, which is converting end users from combustion to electricity. If cars are any indication, this will only increase energy demand. Electric cars are very heavy because of the batteries they lug around. GM’s new Hummer EV comes in at 9,000 lb. Ford’s F-150 Lightning weighs 6,500 lb. These weights simply mean more energy is used to move them. To me, this makes no sense. It is bad enough that people have rejected cars and shifted to massive SUVs and pickup trucks.

Note 1: I converted Quads – quadrillion BTUs – to watt-hours.

Note 2: I drive a Chevy Volt, a plug-in hybrid, which IMO is a far superior engineering solution. It only needs fuel on the occasional long trip and requires no new infrastructure. It weighs about 3,360 lb. according to the scale at the local dump.